Do I Have a Personal Injury Case? 4 Key Factors in Minnesota
An unexpected, serious personal injury can put your life on hold. You may have to deal with pain and suffering, medical treatments, expensive medical bills, lost wages, missed opportunities, and many other problems. If you believe someone else’s negligence caused your mishap, you may have the right to bring a personal injury claim against the at-fault party in Minnesota. In general, an injured party (plaintiff) or plaintiff’s attorney needs to demonstrate four key elements to prove a personal injury case.
Duty of Care
A duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care exists in many scenarios. When you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, for example, you assume a duty of care not to cause harm to others on the roadway. Another example is the duty of care a physician has to his or her patients. During an injury claim, your attorney will work to demonstrate that the relationship between you and the defendant was one in which the defendant owed you the duty to exercise care.
What duties the defendant owed you at the time of your accident will depend on the situation. If you have a premises liability claim, for example, you will file against the party that owed you a duty to maintain a safe premises, such as the property owner, business owner, or landlord. Your lawyer can help you identify the correct defendant and that party’s duties of care to you based on the circumstances.
Failure to Fulfill Duty of Care
The second key element is the most important, and often the most difficult to prove. It is the element of breach of duty. Your attorney must show that the defendant negligently, wantonly, or intentionally failed to fulfill the duty to exercise reasonable care. The defendant must be guilty of an action or omission that fell outside of his or her duties to you. Many examples of breaches of duty could culminate in injury claims.
Proving this key element may take significant help from your legal representative. Your attorney should have resources to expend on your case, such as connections with key experts who can testify that a breach of duty occurred. A medical malpractice lawsuit, for example, could benefit from testimony from a physician.
Causal Relationship Between the Breach and the Accident
The third key element is causation. Your attorney will need to show a link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the accident or injury. The defendant’s actions should be the proximate, or main, cause of injury. Establishing a causal relationship may take speaking to eyewitnesses, reenacting the accident, and investigating the scene for evidence of a link. The defendant will not be liable for damages if his or her actions did not cause the plaintiff damages.
Recoverable Damages in Minnesota
Finally, your lawyer will need to establish that you suffered real, compensable damages in the accident in question. Otherwise, you would have no grounds on which to file a claim. The defendant’s breach of duty of care must have caused you economic or non-economic damages. The damages you suffered in the accident can vary.
- Physical injuries
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and wage capacity
- Property damages
The amount you may recover for your injuries will depend on the extent of damages. In general, the Minnesota courts will award more for severe and debilitating personal injuries than minor ones. You may also qualify for punitive damages if the judge finds the defendant’s breach of duty particularly negligent, malicious, or wanton. Punitive damages are additional awards to punish the defendant and provide better compensation for injured victims. Speak to an attorney today to find out if you have grounds for a case.